By Our Staff Reporter
Guwahati, January 7: Uncertainty loomed large over implementation of the tiol Food Security Act in Assam, with the State government missing three dates it had earlier proposed for the scheme’s formal launch.
Despite New Delhi putting pressure on the states to implement the Act at the earliest, Assam government has been uble to meet the logistics required to implement it.
The Centre had on December issued an ultimatum to all states to implement the Act by April 4, 2015 or else the foodgrain allocated to them for distribution to above poverty line (APL) families would be at a higher rate.
Dispur had announced that it would implement the Act from November, 2013. After it missed that date, another was set – February, 2014. Having failed to launch it on that date too, the government had announced that the Act would be implemented from September, 2014 and accordingly all the line departments were told to do the groundwork. The government failed to launch the scheme in the third date as well.
After the NDA government came to power, it asked the State to computerize the list of beneficiaries. Assam government had then roped in Amtron for the job.
There are currently 52 lakh card holders in Assam which represent around 2.25 crore of the population.
Official sources said Amtron is uble to handle the work, given its idequate manpower in some districts.
Till last week, the firm could enroll (data entry) only about 23 lakh beneficiaries.
“It might take another six months for the firm to complete the job,” the sources said.
The situation had put the food and civil supplies department in a fix. The department is sending frequent reminders to the firm to expedite the work.
It may be mentioned here that the issue of subsidized ration to tea workers is also linked to the Food Security Act.
The government was planning to include the tea workers as beneficiaries under the Act and provide them with the subsidized ration.
To implement the project, the State government would need Rs 450 crore (not inclusive of the cost of items).
The food Act, which was cleared by Parliament during the tenure of the United Progressive Alliance government, seeks to abolish the APL and below poverty line (BPL) criteria and uniformly provide 5 kg of wheat or rice to each identified beneficiary at a fixed rate of Rs 3 a kg for rice, Rs 2 a kg for wheat and Rs 1 a kg for coarse grains.
Despite many terming it has a hoax, the Congress had, before the Lok Sabha elections, projected the food security bill as a game changer.
The Union government had rushed through an ordince on the key measure in an indication that the party is keen to pull out all the stops in propagating the food security scheme that will provide right to cheap food grains to 82 crore people.
Since the Act was first implemented on July 4, 2014, just 11 of the 28 state governments have implemented the Act.